Ballina probe into Jason Dawes? death
By ZOE SATHERLEY
A CORONIAL inquest into the death of Jason Dawes, the 10 year-old boy with autism who was killed by his mother Daniela, will be held in Ballina.
Deputy State Coroner Carl Milovanovich will conduct the inquest which starts on April 4.
The inquest will examine factors which may have contributed to Jason's death in August 2003, especially the lack of government services to support the family.
About 20 witnesses have been called to appear, including representatives from area health services, Ballina Early Intervention Service, Department of Education and Training and private schools, said the coronial advocate presenting the case, Sgt Tara Norton.
Daniela Dawes, who is not a witness but who has been invited to appear before the inquest, welcomed the proceedings.
"This is very important for the whole community," the Ballina woman said.
"I used to fight for services for my son and now I am continuing to fight for better services for other families who have children with a disability.
"If this inquest helps other families avoid tragedy it will be a good thing."
In June 2004, Judge Roy Ellis, in the Parramatta District Court, found Daniela guilty of the manslaughter of her son and put her on a five-year good behaviour bond.
Judge Ellis called into question the role that a lack of government support services for the family played in Jason's death.
There was a two-year delay in the family receiving early intervention support for Jason, respite was inadequate and school support vastly underfunded.
Judge Ellis told the court: "The trend over the last 20 years in the treatment of the disabled has rightly been away from institutionalisation.
"It is difficult to understand why obtaining appropriate assistance and respite care is so difficult.
"It is clear that the present system within NSW leaves a lot to be desired and was a significant stressor for this offender over an extended period of time."
Through the court proceedings, it was established that Daniela had a long-standing mental illness and was suffering from acute depression at the time.
Her entrenched clinical depression and inability to sep- arate her identity from that of her autistic son was one of the crucial factors in the judge's decision.
Judge Ellis said: "It is the opinion of the court that the lives of the offender and her son were so intertwined in the mind of the offender, that a decision to end one was a decision to end both."
He said he thought she had suffered enough and he wished her well.
Sgt Norton will present all the evidence gathered by police investigators involved in the case.
She said the inquest has been undertaken because issues of a coronial nature, such as different government agencies not providing adequate assistance, needed to be examined.
These issues are not normally aired in a criminal jurisdiction, she said.
The only place they can be examined is in a coronial inquest.